By Ashante Travis
After gaining some recent exposure, a promising instrumentalist and student from Hampton Roads is determined -- and ready -- to show the world what music is all about.
Promise Paulden, a junior music performance major at Hampton University, has been playing the violin since she was 3 years old. Her parents decided to invest in her musical abilities after seeing their baby girl use a pencil to strum a comb. Young Promise was given a violin instructor and was taught through the Suzuki program for 12 years thereafter.
The Suzuki Association of America is a coalition of teachers, parents, educators and friends who are interested in making music education available to all children. The organization has a distinct teaching approach that places emphasis on parent involvement, love, encouragement, and constant repetition. Through this method, students are trained to master techniques by listening to music and imitating what they hear and then later learning to read music.
The Suzuki program is particularly known for producing very diligent and highly developed students, like 19-year-old Paulden, who transferred from Virginia Wesleyan College to Hampton University last year.
Paulden is a violinist in the Hampton University Orchestra and meets with her instructor, Assistant Professor Jerry A. Bracey, once a week for an hour. Bracey is the director of both the Chamber Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble says.
The university's music department prides itself on offering its music majors unique experiences where they can grow as artists, learners, and professionals. Paulden appreciates all that the campus offers and says her professors have been extremely encouraging.
"Professor Bracey has been super helpful to me," she says. "If I ever have problem, he is always there. He pushes me to the things I want to do. Dr. [Shelia J.] Maye has also been supportive. She made a way for me to play at two events on campus this year."
Maye, chairperson of the music department, afforded Paulden the opportunity to play the student's composition, "Hallelujah Medley," at the Winter Faculty Institute and then a rendition of the gospel song "Total Praise" at the annual Black Family Conference.
Paulden is evaluated weekly and therefore dedicates each day to perfecting her craft. In fact, she aims to practice at least five hours daily, in addition to maintaining her academic work and social life. In her free time, she is a gospel violinist -- which she loves -- and sometimes plays at other events for extra money. The self-assured player has additionally received much recognition on YouTube, where there are also videos of various performances.
Needless to say, juggling both music and school while simultaneously trying to enjoy life can be a challenge. Paulden says, "Normally I don't get to go to parties. I have to take time for my social life and my everyday life and dating. I'm used to being music-minded because it's always integrated into my personal life, and that's been a challenge for me.
"It's hard to turn the musician off."
But it seems as though Paulden's life is better with the music on.
She says plans to attend graduate school and recognizing that music is extremely interactive with our brains, says that her dream is to become a music therapist. Her goal in this profession would be to replace medicine with music and to help release people from mental problems and emotional stress. Last summer she actually helped a child with ADHD learn the violin.
Despite the challenges that accompany her craft, Paulden is focused on doing what she loves.
"I'm progressing as a musician, and I just like to play. It's great when someone tells me that they could feel what I just played or that the music spoke to them."
The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.